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Church wins tax exemption case against city of Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - A judge in Milwaukee ruled Tuesday that it's unconstitutional for local governments to assess property taxes to certain groups, while they challenge a rejection of a tax-exempt status. 

Circuit Judge Christopher Foley issued his decision in a case involving the Jerusalem Empowered African Methodist Episcopal Church on Milwaukee's northwest side. 

The dispute involves what the city calls an "excess" parcel of vacant land on the church site. The city said the land should be taxed -- and it required the church to pay about $27,000 in taxes and other costs before it can appeal. 

The church said it could not afford the taxes, and it could not borrow for them. So the church said the city was violating the church's right to due process. 

Judge Foley agreed Tuesday. He said the decision only applies to non-profit benevolent groups which cannot pay the taxes they challenge. 

Milwaukee officials said the ruling is not a big deal, because it was limited in scope.